EXCLUSIVE: David Permut’s long-in-the-works film about the late comic Sam Kinison has taken form. Larry Charles, who helmed the Sacha Baron Cohen comedies Borat, Bruno and The Dictator, has signed on to direct and Josh Gad is set to play the pentecostal preacher-turned-manic standup comedian. Kinison has a script by xXx scribe Rich Wilkes, based on the book Brother Sam by Bill Kinison. Permut will produce, Tom Shadyac and Bill Kinison will be exec producers, and Steve Longi and Permut Presentations’ Chris Mangano will co-produce.
“There was nothing conventional about Sam Kinison and neither will be the cinematic interpretation of his life,” said Permut. “Larry Charles is the perfect director to bring Rich Wilkes’ incredible script to screen, and Josh Gad’s tremendous ability to morph into a role will bring great depth to Kinison’s larger than life persona.”
The film picks up the Kinison story in the 80s, as he transitions from the family business of Pentecostal preaching and into stand up comedy in Hollywood. Kinison and Charles cracked that racket around the same time, when Kinison was tearing tickets for The Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd and waiting for his chance, while Charles was hustling to sell jokes to the headlining comics long before he became writer/producer of Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage.Once Kinison got his chance, it was like he was shot out of a cannon. Soon after being launched on HBO on a Rodney Dangerfield-hosted young comedians special, Kinison was a headliner and seemed destined for movie stardom after a showy role in the Dangerfield comedy Back To School. Unfortunately, his ascent was interrupted when the preacher’s son took a decadent plunge into drink and drugs, which stunted Kinison’s growth in the feature world. After years of self-abuse, Kinison finally cleaned up his act and conquered his demons. In a cruel irony, the sober Kinison was killed in a head-on collision with a drunken driver in 1992 at age 38.
Much of Kinison’s decadent years we all learned about through his many appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show, and Stern will be among the many characters the producers will cast as they tell his story. The producers are in conversations with a number of stars and stand up comics to populate such roles as evangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and Oral Roberts, as well as comic peers like Richard Pryor.
As for Gad, he will next be seen as computer pioneer Stephen Wozniak opposite Ashton Kutcher in the upcoming Steve Jobs film Jobs, and most recently starred in the sitcom 1600 Penn. Charles is repped by WME and Gad by ICM Partners and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. WME Global and ICM are working on packaging the film and selling domestic distribution rights. Wilkes is repped by Verve and Management 360.
I will never forget seeing Kinison’s manic and politically incorrect talent on display for the first time on HBO. Here’s a snippet: